Congratulations to Nikita Malhotra, winner of the MICHELIN Guide New York 2022 Sommelier of the Year, presented in partnership with Wine Access! Malhotra has been a quiet but steady force in the New York wine scene, working in retail and wine bars for the past decade. She brings creativity and personality to her position as Wine Director at Two MICHELIN Star Ko, and her wine list showcases the excellence of icons and rising stars in regions around the world. As part of the 2022 MICHELIN Guide New York Star Revelation, we spoke with Malhotra about buckwheat tea, the role of a somm in hospitality, and what she reads.
What are you drinking these days?
What is your favorite non-alcoholic drink?
Soba cha (buckwheat tea) has been a constant companion this year, hot in the cold season and ice cold when it’s hot. At Ko, we source our soba cha from Kettl.
What is your ideal dish and pairing?
Cacio e pepe and sake, specifically Kikuhime BY 2008.
One of Ko’s main dishes © Momofuku/Ko
What is the biggest misconception about being a sommelier, or wine in general, that you would like to dispel?
People tend to isolate the sommelier and view wine as a separate part of a restaurant. The best sommeliers are agents of hospitality and work seamlessly with all elements of service. Specific to a sommelier, I think people tend to focus on the association with wine and the glamor that the job dictates, but ultimately a sommelier is part of a restaurant. The best sommeliers are hospitality agents. The best sommeliers are in tune with all elements of the service and can work with their team to deliver an experience that takes a lot of thought and planning, but when executed well, feels seamless.
What are your criteria for adding a new wine to your menu?
We are unique in that we also provide the winemaker in terms of referencing our wines. Wine can provide that framework of being transported to a time and place and in terms of selecting for the list, I’m interested in how I can deliver that experience to the guest. The sommeliers are in a way the ambassadors of the winegrowers and the wine regions. It is important to maintain this and provide options for customers as well.
Movie, book, magazine, etc. on the favorite wine?
I worked in a university bookstore for 6 years, so books are a constant companion for me. I have just finished Noël Cossart Madeira, the island vineyard. Nobel Rot magazine is also wonderful because it celebrates all aspects of wine and offers really interesting and engaging content.
Director of Ko Wines, Nikita Malhotra
Hero Image: Nikita Malhotra © Momofuku/Ko
Presented in partnership with Wine Access